By John Kerr,
Head of Timetable Compliance and Resilience, First ScotRail
I wrote in October that a comprehensive review of the Far North timetable was well underway to improve its overall performance. Since then we have introduced a new winter timetable which is specifically designed to improve Far North Line resilience and to address the overall reliability of journey times for our customers.
Performance has been affected mainly by the nature of the infrastructure - single line with passing loops. Small delays to one service can result in knock-on delays to other trains which can build up throughout the day. The opening of Conon Bridge station - restoring services for local people after decades with no rail connections - also made it more difficult for trains to keep to the timetable.
Working closely with Network Rail and Transport Scotland, we have painstakingly created the new timetable aimed at giving local people and visitors a timetable they can rely on in the short to medium term. There are clear signs that the new timetable is creating a more reliable, predictable service while making best use of the infrastructure and resources available.
Introduced in mid-December, the winter timetable also introduced enhancements - such as a new 18:28 Inverness-Wick service which gives a connection to stations all the way to Wick from Glasgow and Edinburgh in the middle of the afternoon. We are committed to further improvement. The new timetable is an interim solution - and we will continue efforts to improve journey times on these routes. Network Rail, for example, is assessing, as a matter of priority, options for reducing journey times on the Far North line. It is reviewing where train speeds on the line can be increased and how changes in infrastructure, such as enhanced level crossings, create opportunities for trains to travel at faster speeds.